As an attorney, William Holston made it a priority to volunteer his legal services to help refugees who were seeking religious and political asylum in the U.S. One particular client helped Holston see that service to others is a privilege—and a path to greatness.
I believe that to be great you need to be a servant. What do you think of when you think of a great person? Do you think of someone who is highly educated, wealthy, or powerful? If we’re honest, most of us do.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace—a soul generated by love.”
These are beautiful words, but I’m not sure I understood them until an event several years ago. Through this experience I came to believe that service is a privilege.
I have practiced law for over 25 years. One of the things I have had the privilege of providing is pro bono representation for people seeking asylum here in the United States. Through that experience, I’ve had the opportunity to hear the stories of very brave people who faced prison and torture because of their race, their pro democracy activities or how they worship God. It feels pretty good to help someone.
A number of years ago, I represented a young man from Zaire, now called Congo. He had been a pro democracy activist. This resulted in his arrest. He had miraculously managed to escape and make his way to America. His wife and children were in hiding in the town of Brazzaville. I assisted this young man to obtain political asylum here. Months later, he showed up at my office with his wife and children. They were no longer in hiding, but now making a new life in the United States. He introduced me to them and thanked me. I told him it was my pleasure. He looked at me, paused and said, “No, I know what you did for me, you gave me my life.” Then it hit me. It was me who was getting the most out of this relationship. Most people never get a chance to hear something like that. This was perhaps the greatest moment in my career. It was unobserved and produced no money, but it was as close as I’ve ever felt to greatness. I learned that it is a privilege to serve others.
So, this act of service on my part resulted in the highest compliment I’ve ever received. Jesus once told his disciples, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” I think he was telling the truth.
After more than 30 years of practicing law, William Holston left his practice in 2011 to devote all of his energy to things that matter most to him. He is now the Executive Director of Human Rights Initiative of North Texas. Mr. Holston lives in Dallas and is a frequent commentator on public radio station KERA.
Recorded by KERA in Dallas and produced for This I Believe by Dan Gediman
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